NASCAR will examine if there is more it can do to limit the contact suspended individuals, particularly crew chiefs, have with their teams on race weekends.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said Monday on “The Morning Drive” that even if the sanctioning body barred suspended crew chiefs from having contact with their team at the track, it would be “very difficult to police.’’
The question was asked on the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show after Martin Truex Jr. stated last week that his team would stay in touch with suspended crew chief Cole Pearn via FaceTime, chat and other electronic means last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
NASCAR suspended Pearn for one event after a roof flap violation was discovered with the Furniture Row Racing car in inspection before the Atlanta race. The team stated it planned to appeal and had Pearn’s suspension deferred. The team dropped its appeal last week after the Las Vegas race, and Pearn’s suspension was enforced at Phoenix.
Section 12.7.d of the Sprint Cup Rule Book states: “In general a Member who is suspended is not eligible to participate in person in any NASCAR-sanctioned activity, nor to enter restricted areas of an Event (e.g.; garage, pits, spotter stand, victory lane, etc.) in which the competition or related activities take place.’’
O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials will examine that policy.
“The old policy of ‘You’re suspended, and you can’t be there’ has probably served its time,’’ O’Donnell said. “As we go forward now, obviously we never want to have to suspend someone, we’re going to have look at the technology.
“It’s very difficult to police, but you could have almost a no-contact rule. That would be hard to police, but we could put that in place. It is something we’re looking at. We wanted to see how Phoenix went, and we’ll kind of evaluate what teams are doing with all the technologies that they have in place and see what we can and can’t monitor on a fair manner and go from there.
“A suspension should be that. It shouldn’t allow someone just to crew chief a car from a different location.’’
Crew chiefs have been known to be at the track even while suspended. In 2007, Tony Eury Jr., then crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., sat atop a motorhome parked overlooking the backstretch at New Hampshire Motor Speedway while serving a suspension. Others have been at tracks but in less obvious ways.
In 2013, Mike Helton, NASCAR President at the time, told The Sporting News that NASCAR did not plan to change its rules on teams communicating with suspended personnel not at the track.
“They can’t have their hands on it if they’re not in the garage,” Helton told The Sporting News. “We get the fact that in today’s world of technology and social media and all the opportunities (for communicating) that their input could still be utilized.
“We didn’t suspend them from going to the race shops anyway. They can still be part of the preparation work and getting ready for the race.”